Is there such a thing as timeless comedy?

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British Alien

  • Tuesday 11th January 2011, 5:21pm [Edited]
  • Northampton, England
  • 13 posts

Okay, here I am. Again. Second times a charm.

I am doing an Extended Project (basically a dissertation) for A-level about whether there is such a thing as timeless comedy. And I know it's a big question. Now obviously it depends on what individuals think and everybody has a different idea on things. What I would like from you, is your opinions on the matter. To prove points or to dispute them I need opinions of the general public on the subject. And I thought, there is no better place than here. So... is there such a thing as a timeless comedy?

I would like you to consider:
How far Britain's perception of comedy changed of what has been funny and what has not been funny since the 1910s?
How much has the British comedy scene changed due to influences from abroad?
How much has the world's political climate changed our perception of comedy? Is anything in comedy ever new?
What are the different types of comedy that have become especially prominent in the public view?
Is it the actor/comedian or the writing that makes the comedy timeless?

I don't need anything big or fancy. Just some ideas on these subjects. Thank you for reading. xxx

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Tuumble

  • Tuesday 11th January 2011, 5:33pm [Edited]
  • Peterborough, England
  • 4,491 posts

You have to be aware of fashion and taste changes. Compare the material from stand ups in the 70s and the 80s. Even the slick performers who could cut it over decades - as Monkhouse showed - fell out of favour at times when their brand of material was less fashionable.

Timeless comedy is more about someone falling on their arse or clever word play. Also, a lot depends on the quality of the delivery.

As the family dynamic has changed the way we watch and enjoy comedy changes too. Children are lot more sophisticated and grown up it seems to me but by the same token shows that all generations can watch together are fewer and farther between.

As with everything in life it's cyclical - everything has a lifespan but very rarely does something totally disappear but will be adapted for new audiences.

Hope that off the cuff ramble helps.

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Chappers

  • Tuesday 11th January 2011, 6:57pm
  • Surreyish., England
  • 30,192 posts

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

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Afinkawan

  • Wednesday 12th January 2011, 12:40pm
  • Huddersfield, England
  • 2,302 posts

Depends. I found Taming of the Shrew funny.

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Tursiops

  • Wednesday 12th January 2011, 12:43pm
  • Welwyn Garden City, England
  • 9,788 posts

I particularly enjoyed "Brush Up Your Shakespeare".

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Natalie Of Wicks

  • Wednesday 12th January 2011, 12:53pm
  • England
  • 9,484 posts

I suppose it would help to find older comedy which still airs and sells well. That would be the closest you'd get to 'timeless'.

I'm hardly the best person to answer on older shows though, as my knowledge is very limited.

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Will Cam

  • Wednesday 12th January 2011, 12:53pm
  • England
  • 7,914 posts

While I am doing your research could you possibly come and run my office, paint my house and fix my leaky tap :P

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Tursiops

  • Wednesday 12th January 2011, 1:03pm
  • Welwyn Garden City, England
  • 9,788 posts
Quote: Nat Wicks @ January 12 2011, 12:53 PM GMT

I suppose it would help to find older comedy which still airs and sells well. That would be the closest you'd get to 'timeless'.

I'm hardly the best person to answer on older shows though, as my knowledge is very limited.


At Christmas I subjected my fourteen year-old neice to The Blood Donor. She giggled helplessly throughout; then composed herself and commented that "it wasn't all that funny".

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Natalie Of Wicks

  • Wednesday 12th January 2011, 1:05pm
  • England
  • 9,484 posts

You should slap her for her insubordination.

I was thinking something like the Monty Pythons movies- I'd have a look on wiki which should tell which channels are currently airing it. Don't know how to find out what unit DVD sales are though- maybe press departments?

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andyblacksheep

  • Wednesday 12th January 2011, 2:06pm
  • England
  • 140 posts

I think it's interesting that most of the views of 'timeless' on here are at the outside maybe 50 years old, plus a couple of Shakespeares, versus thousands of years of humanity. Which would tend to argue the 'no, not really' answer ;)

Shakespeare's a good one to think about though. Some of his comic plays (performed well, natch) can still get the laughs. But lots of what at the time would have been top drawer gags will leave a modern audience cold unless they're said in a funny voice or the guy falls over at the same time or something, ie. DOES something funny to hide the fact they're not SAYING anything funny. So the question is, what's the difference? Aaaand that's back over to you as it's your paper.

The other side of it is non-authored comedy. Ug trying to throw his spear at an elk and accidentally spearing his own foot was probably always funny. Unless you were Ug.

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British Alien

  • Thursday 13th January 2011, 10:46am
  • Northampton, England
  • 13 posts
Quote: Will Cam @ January 12 2011, 12:53 PM GMT

While I am doing your research could you possibly come and run my office, paint my house and fix my leaky tap :P


As I have said many times, I do not want/need people doing my research for me. That is not what its about. All I need is your opinions.

Thank you for reading x

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Shandonbelle

  • Thursday 13th January 2011, 11:58am [Edited]
  • England
  • 6,571 posts

My day off work so time is of the essence but...

I found a really good book in a charity shop the other day 'The history of movie comedy' it starts way back in the days of Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd and goes on to the likes of MASH and Airplane ( this book is yonks old by the way, 1985!) but it's such a pleasure to read through.

My point being... that I consider all comedy timeless. Stripped down to the bare essentials I'd say comedy is about 'people being, doing, saying and interacting in ways that provoke amusement in other people...human nature and all that involves' (animals can make us laugh too of course with their behaviour but they themselves cannot laugh (poor unfortunate creatures!)). Hard to define but that's the nature of it I suppose.
All that changes over time are the methods, fashions, tastes, trends etc, but how old a comedy is be it a film, play or sketch etc to me is incidental; if it's funny it's funny whenever, if someone from the Vaudeville days for eg Laurel and Hardy make me laugh now (which they do) then to me that's timeless.

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Afinkawan

  • Thursday 13th January 2011, 1:04pm
  • Huddersfield, England
  • 2,302 posts
Quote: andyblacksheep @ January 12 2011, 2:06 PM GMT

I think it's interesting that most of the views of 'timeless' on here are at the outside maybe 50 years old, plus a couple of Shakespeares, versus thousands of years of humanity. Which would tend to argue the 'no, not really' answer ;)


Depends if you can identify anything much older which was intended as comedy.

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andyblacksheep

  • Thursday 13th January 2011, 1:28pm
  • England
  • 140 posts

The central idea of Lysistrata, Aristophane's sex-and-war comedy from 411BC, I find funny.

But as you say, since so little written stuff survives, 'timeless' is a tough label to acquire!

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jhmagic1

  • Thursday 13th January 2011, 1:50pm [Edited]
  • Wales
  • 329 posts

I think it's hard to find a timeless sitcom. But QI could be considered timeless because there aren't that many topical references.